The pragmatic advice I wish I received in first year

Advice from a grizzled upper-year that isn’t ‘Queen’s will be the time of your life’

Image by: Tessa Warburton
Many of the lessons learned in university aren’t in the brochure.

I have nothing but nostalgia for first year, but there are certain aspects of being a Queen’s student I wish I had known about. 

You know, to save time.

It’s okay if you don’t love Orientation Week

First, Orientation Week is a rite of passage. After that, you can decide if you enjoyed it.

Orientation Week is tradition-based comradery which aims to remove social barriers for the incoming class. All new frosh wear their ill-fitting faculty shirt, scream their faculty chant at the top of their lungs and will at some point be covered in dirt, shaving cream and water.

Your instincts may be to turn up your nose, be overwhelmed, or embrace the unknown. Either way, it’s helpful to know that the Orientation Leaders and volunteers running frosh week have spent months preparing for your welcome, and genuinely want you to feel at home.

There’s no “best” residence

The frenzy of anticipation that surrounds residence room assignments always brings up the age-old question: which residence is the best?

Yes, my answer is clichéd and boring, but there’s no best residence. How close the residence is to campus, or whether or not you have your own bathroom is no indicator of how you will experience residence.

A randomized lottery matches you to a building and determines which characters will live with you for the year. From there, it ‘s up to you to embrace your first community at Queen’s.

Don’t worry about your program

Breathe a sigh of relief: nothing you do in first year completely commits you to a program. 

I can’t count how many times I have seen students swap their major or minor, switch in or out of engineering, or transfer into completely different programs.

Unlike other universities, most incoming students at Queen’s use the year to see if they’re enjoying their classes before they commit to a concentration. In fact, you can add and drop classes without penalty until Sept. 19.

Narrow down your discipline’s requirements

I think we can all agree we would rather learn a plan’s requirements than be surprised at the end of the year when we’re trying to declare a major.

In Arts and Science, majors and minors generally require you to earn a certain mark in the prerequisite classes to qualify for automatic acceptance. Don’t be afraid to book an appointment with an academic advisor or email the department you’re researching to get all of the details you need to be accepted.

Queen’s support resources are worth a try

When you’re balancing your academics and extracurriculars with your personal life, ask for help when you need it. I promise you that Queen’s and the student community are invested in your success and that, most importantly, you’re not alone.

Queen’s has an array of judgement-free student-run programs. The Peer Support Center (PSC), Engineering Wellness Center (EWS), Student Academic Success Services (SASS) and Sexual Health and Resource Center (SHRC) are all great examples of students helping other students.

Queen’s is also home to Student Wellness Services (SWS), which offers professional help in the areas of personal, academic, and social development. 

There really is a place for everyone

I kid you not when I say there is a community for everything at Queen’s.

Queen’s boasts an extensive number of clubs, teams and extracurriculars. With over 250 clubs, whether your interests lie in art, finance, writing, comedy, identity, athletics, theatre, religion, politics, I can guarantee that somebody shares your niche.

When you arrive in September, you get to make your own unique mark on campus. While no two Queen’s experiences are the same, tradition connects everyone in the incoming classes, and you’ll have the opportunity to be a part of something bigger than yourself.



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